For Indian manufacturers to remain relevant and thrive in this new world of digital connect, there is no option but to move rapidly towards this digitisation, states G Gangadhar, Director, Forbes Marshall.
Digitisation is a much talked about word in recent times. Be it our Prime Minister’s new mantra for cash-minimum economy, or the disruption this word is causing in the services sector and FMCG brick-and-mortar retail, It is now touching almost every walk of our lives today. So any surprise if manufacturing is not being impacted by this? Not at all.
Digitisation is expected to make all conventional thinking about product offering and manufacturing processes stand on its head. People conveyance-as-a-service (Uber, Ola, etc.) is a stark indicator of days to come where manufacturers will have to abandon their thinking about products – their design, their features, their production – to providing services to customers, who will move from owning products and equipment to buying services – CAPEX to OPEX!! Product differentiation and positioning will give way to service differentiation and positioning. There will perhaps be a convergence of manufacturing and services sectors.
New levels of customer preferences will require manufacturing sector to be more agile, adaptable and flexible in what they plan and what they do. Long term planning will give way to short term planning with the required agility, adaptability and flexibility to meet customer’s changing demands and expectations. Early signals of digitisation were seen when manufacturing sector adopted CRM for customer facing activities, ERP for manufacturing activities and PLM for product development and life cycle. These provided the automation required for consistency and visibility in delivery, quality and product development.
To enhance productivity and quality, automation in manufacturing using robotics, artificial intelligence, data analytics and BI have become the new manufacturing tools, which use digital technology to the hilt. From old concept of breakdown-maintenance to preventive-maintenance to the now predictive-maintenance demands, the products and equipment need to become smart with the ability to emanate signals of their health and performance. The factory today needs to be smart in being able to not only read these signals from the equipment that are used for manufacturing but also in ensuring the products manufactured incorporate this smart feature to help our customers from moving from breakdown to predictive maintenance. As the demand changes from products to services, these very smart products will become adaptable using the IoT technology.
New demands of less human intervention, single-source-of-truth, paperless records with traceability, data analysis etc. are all ensuring that digital technologies such as bar coding system, RFID, big data analytics and BI, mobile apps become the new order in manufacturing. Coupled with this is the ever-growing need to enhance productivity and quality, shortest time-to-market and the demands of real-time tracking of equipment performance, are all driving the manufacturing sector to adopt digital technologies faster than they ever envisaged.
Deployment of digitisation by Indian manufacturing sector is slowly but surely happening driven by the demands stated in the earlier paragraphs. The thrust on world-class quality with make-in-India philosophy, need for availability of information on-the-run, addressing the needs and demands of global customers, smart products that can communicate within and outside the ecosystem of their installation or usage and the growing convergence of manufacturing and services sectors are all ensuring this rapid adaptation of digital technologies. So for Indian manufacturers to remain relevant and thrive in this new world of digital connect, there is no option but to move rapidly towards this digitisation. Growing number of Indian MNCs and increasing global footprint of Indian companies are good indicators of this trend.
Delivers smart products for smart factory
Forbes Marshall has been in the forefront of adapting this digital revolution both in its manufacturing processes and in its products. It was one of the first companies in SME sector to go in for a full-blown ERP system as early as in 2000. Automation in Forbes Marshall’s manufacturing processes has been lead by its able team in tool room. Use of PLCs, computers and robotics in critical processes has been an ongoing practice for years. Use of data analytics, BI, bar coding system for material movement and transactions, use of latest design tools for 3D modelling and printing or computerised stress analysis / CFD etc., use of IoT platform for monitoring the performance of critical equipment deployed for manufacturing, tracking and monitoring the usage of utilities like water and electricity using the same IoT platform as a part of green initiative, are all examples of digitisation being the way forward.
Forbes Marshall has always believed in offering to its customers, products and services with leading edge technology. So no surprise that the company today offers smart products designed for a smart factory. Forbes Marshall products are either adaptable with some additional hardware and software to be a part of the digital ecosystem, or are with these features built-in. Whether it is the remote monitoring of steam traps (Wireless Trap Monitoring System) or customer data for their gaseous and liquid emission levels communicated to pollution control boards or smart vibration monitoring systems (VMS) or smart steam and water analysis systems (SWAS) or combustion efficiency monitoring systems (Effimax) or the information gathering and dissemination platform (EverSense), are all designed for the smart factory. They not only allow customers to access data and information in real-time but also allow Forbes Marshall to remotely monitor their performance to offer diagnostic information as well as process efficiency enhancing tips.
The company also offers complete turnkey solutions with smart products to its customers for remote tracking and monitoring of their utilities and processes, be it as a productivity enhancement initiative or a green initiative to conserve water, electricity, air or fuel.
In conclusion, for India, digitisation will always pose this oft-asked question – will digitisation or automation lead to a drop in employment opportunity. This question is perhaps best answered if we look back at the IT and ITES revolution that started in 1990s. This revolution led to a huge employment opportunity and IT companies started hiring young graduates in thousands. Will digitisation in manufacturing create a new such opportunity where skill levels will move away from operating machines and equipment in manufacturing to designing new techniques for automation and digitisation leaving the actual task of production to robots and machines with AI ? Possibly yes.
G Gangadhar, Director, Forbes Marshall